Innovation on display

School of Engineering teams found success in the recent Tufts $100K New Ventures Competition.
PhD student in chemical engineering Luca Mazzaferro, EG23, and MS student in materials science and engineering Zosia Stafford, E22, hold a large check for their winning pitch at the Tufts $100K New Ventures Competition. Photo credit: Tufts Gordon Institute and Derby Entrepreneurship Center.
Photo credit: Tufts Gordon Institute and Derby Entrepreneurship Center

Across Tufts University, members of the Jumbo community conceptualize new products and ideas that make the world a better place. The Derby Entrepreneurship Center helps bring these ideas to light with the annual Tufts $100K New Ventures Competition. As the flagship venture competition at Tufts, the event promotes an entrepreneurial mindset among Tufts community members. Teams present their ideas in one of three tracks – general technology, healthcare and life science, and social impact – for the chance to win cash prizes up to $25,000. With five teams from each category competing in the finals on April 13, the evening saw a host of innovative projects ranging from communication technology for Deaf people to innovations in cavity prevention.

Anyone from the Tufts community is welcome to participate in the competition, including students, faculty, staff, and recent alumni. The School of Engineering was well represented in the competition; out of the 15 finalist teams, six included at least one School of Engineering-affiliated member.

SmartH, a team dedicated to a wound-dressing hydrogel product, won first place in the healthcare and life science category. PhD student in chemical engineering Luca Mazzaferro, EG23, and MS student in materials science and engineering Zosia Stafford, E22, teamed up with Aslihan Gokaltun, an instructor at Massachusetts General Hospital, to present their supramolecular hybrid hydrogel burn dressing. Patients regularly cite wound dressing removal and changing as the most painful part of the recovery process. Drawing from technology developed in Associate Professor Ayse Asatekin’s lab, the team’s hydrogel makes wound dressing changing less painful and more efficient. In addition to placing first in its category, the SmartH team also won the Stephen and Geraldine Ricci Prize, a $15,000 dollar prize awarded to an interdisciplinary engineering team.

In the social impact track, environmental engineering undergraduate student Gaby Ackermann Logan, E23, and teammate Katie Furey, A23, placed second with their pitch for Equiballot. They aim to simplify the voting process with a free app that provides unbiased information about political candidates, voter registration information, and more. The app is designed to be mutually beneficial to politicians and voters alike; candidates can promote themselves at a low cost and voters get digestible, factual information about the candidates. The duo hopes that the app, targeted toward young people, will help voters to make informed choices about which candidates to elect to office on the local and national levels. The team plans to focus on Middlesex County politicians for the app’s initial launch at Tufts University and hope to expand its reach as the 2024 Presidential Election approaches.

School of Engineering-affiliated teams won the top two places in the general technologies track: Caravel Bio and EcoView. Biotechnology PhD student Trevor Nicks, EG23, and teammate Emily Weinberg pitched Caravel Bio, which won first place in the track. The company makes carbon-negative chemicals from sustainable sources more affordable. The team works with enzyme carriers that stabilize the enzymatic system, allowing the enzymes to be recycled and making them more reliable to use on a larger scale. Its mission is to replace petrochemical products in materials, foods, and pharmaceuticals with carbon-negative alternatives.

EcoView Analytics placed second and won the Cummings Property Rent Credit for its category, which provides free office space for one year. The team is composed of five students from Tufts Gordon Institute’s MS in Innovation and Management program: Fiachra Finegan, Jay Masci, Marius Michel-Nil, Nicholas Muro, and Jackson D. Saunders, all EG23. The EcoView Analytics team presented GreenEye, an automated drone mapping system that analyzes golf courses to help maintainers determine which areas need water. The technology leads to a more targeted irrigation strategy for watering golf courses, which would save money and reduce environmental impact.

In addition to the four School of Engineering teams that placed within the top three of their respective categories, two additional finalist teams also had members with connections to the School of Engineering. SNAPS, in the healthcare and life sciences track, was launched by two MSIM students: Thomas Merten and Mali Kaminaga, both EG23. In the social impact category, the TalkMotion team included computer science undergraduate Neelofar Tamboli, E25.

Beyond organizing the annual $100K New Ventures Competition, the Derby Entrepreneurship Center fosters the next generation of innovators and entrepreneurs through an undergraduate entrepreneurship minor, the Ideas Competition, internship opportunities, and various prizes and awards. The Derby Entrepreneurship Center is part of Tufts Gordon Institute, which is committed to preparing individuals to become leaders who can address 21st century challenges. The pitches presented at the $100K New Ventures Competition spanned numerous disciplines and targeted different audiences, but they each tackled important challenges and showcased the creativity and ingenuity of the Tufts community as a whole, and of many innovative thinkers from the School of Engineering.

Read more about the winners of the Tufts $100K New Ventures Competition.